Be honest, if you thought after his UFC 119 debut loss to Sean McCorkle, that Mark Hunt would be riding a three fight win streak in the UFC heavyweight division by 2012, please raise your hand.
Don't even try to fool me.
Mark Hunt was an afterthought. A Pride leftover that the UFC wanted nothing to do with to the point where they simply wanted to buy out his contract rather than give him a fight with the promotion.
So how in the world is he "in the mix" now after a dominant stoppage of Cheick Kongo? And what happens next for both heavyweights?
Follow me after the jump for our Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo UFC 144 post-fight review and analysis:
Mark Hunt appeared to be in trouble after the opening seconds when he slipped throwing a kick. Kongo, a fighter who's wrestling has grown by leaps and bounds as of late, swarmed him, bullrushing "The Super Samoan" in an attempt to put the former K-1 champion kickboxer on his back.
Fortunately for Hunt, he was able to not only get back on his feet, but also fend off Kongo's bid to drag him to the ground. He even reversed the Frenchman's clinch attempt and was able to separate and force a reset in the cage center.
Once they bot back to striking, Hunt's natural instincts took over. He subtly dodged a big Kongo punch and countered with a swift left hand which rocked his opponent.
Instead of following up, he just went right back to work and when he tagged the Wolfslair fighter once more, this time he swarmed him along the fence. Hunt repeatedly connected with right hands and Kongo finally dropped to the canvas. He was in mount raining down punches when the referee finally had seen enough and realized there would be no dramatic comeback for Kongo this time.
For Cheick Kongo, he gave up on his offensive grappling game way too easily. He had Hunt pinned against the fence and he was simply unable to leverage the New Zealand-native onto the canvas with a big takedown. When he got back to standing, he also failed to protect his chin during striking exchanges and that's simply a mistake you can't afford to make against such a talented striker like Mark Hunt.
For Mark Hunt, one of 2011's best stories continues to get better. At 37 years old, he's actually developed a semblance of takedown defense and ground skills, at least enough to hold his own, survive and get back to where he wants it which is the striking realm. Hunt hits so incredibly hard and his accuracy is uncanny. It's crazy to think he's in the mix now at heavyweight, but after three straight wins and after knocking off Kongo, who was unbeaten in his previous four fights, last night's performance was a huge accomplishment.
I could see Hunt landing a big fight with a wide variety of fighters. A bout with Stefan Struve would be a very intriguing stylistic match-up. Also, a fight with Pat Barry would make the fanboys drool. Other potential candidates for a future bout include Fabricio Werdum or the winner of Travis Browne and Chad Griggs. It's still difficult to wrap my head around it, but major props to Mark Hunt for what he's been able to accomplish.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Is Mark Hunt the feel good story of 2012 already? Who would you like to see "The Super Samoan" matched up with next?